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Dear Phylocles, Love Ephelia


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30/4/1677 Late Evening


The adventuring duchess-poetess had secured her admittance into the apartments of her ever-dear Phylocles. His household was aware they were friends; deep, burning, but platonic friends; a near forty year embodiment of courtly love, perhaps. It was an embodiment of what almost was many times but could never be.


She had left the arrival of the French early and laid in wait for her prince. As soon as he had returned and sat in his favored chair, Ephelia had emerged quiet as a butterfly, and graceful as one too, from behind him. Her hands found his collar at his shoulders and coaxed his frock down; he leaned forward as if thinking it was one of his grooms or gentlemen coming to rid him of the excessive fineries of it all.


The Duchess smiled with triump.


"Fetch me some mulled wine," he said.


She said nothing immediately but put her hands back on his shoulders on those lumps of muscles on both sides of his neck and knead her fingers in with surprising strength, but the familiarity was not one of his servants.


"I will not have a thought from thee I’ll hide,

In all my actions thou shalt be my guide;

In every joy of mine thou shalt have share,

And I will bear a part in all thy care.


Why do I vainly talk of what we’ll do?

We’ll mix our souls, you shall be me, I you;

And both so one it shall be hard to say

Which is Phylocles, which Ephelia."*


Rupert had been in that deep, burning sort of love twice and both ladies had been denied him. First, because of his best friend and cousin's marriage to this fluttering object of his burning affectations. Secondly, because of his elder brother and his current wife.


He had resolved on Mall's refusal on the restoration of Charles, when they were both free to do as they would, never to marry. She was a Catholic, who would not feign another faith, he was a Calvinist, who would not feign another faith. It was their separation, and nobody could have forced her at that time to marry him despite; she was her own woman. It was that which he loved, and he would continue to with that one invisible barrier between them.


He was happy enough in his domestic situation with Miss Hughes now and his two children brought him joy and pride. There would never be, though, a wife. He had shunned that institution that his family misfortune had brought him. It was a fine pain.


Marrying now would just be an insult to the two ladies he had ever graced with that deep, burning care. It seemed silly now, and it pleased him to thwart his brother who had taken one such woman away from him.


So he finished the rest of Mall's poem with ease:


"Our ties shall be as strong as the chains of Fate,

Conquerors and kings our joys shall emulate;

Forgotten friendship, held at first divine,

To its native purity we will refine."*


He sighed as she worked his sore muscles. He was old.


"You sound like you have a sniffle?"


"I am quite fine," he replied, a consummate German.


"You are quite silly," she countered working her fingers into his neck. She was one of few who would say such candid things to him anymore. And who would call him 'silly.'


He grunted. A few moments later, he added, "Come, sit with me, my poetess-duchess."


"Let me call for your mulled wine my artist-scientist-warrior-duke." She took the ribbon from his hair, moved it aside, and then kissed his cheek before calling out the door for some of the hot, spicy liquid.


And when she returned, she did sit with him, only right on his lap, without apology or hesitance. "How are you dear Ru?"


"Old," he replied with a grump; although, he showed no signs of being displeased with her. "Such trips did not used to wear me out, and here you are a spectacle of beauty still."


"Spirits are timeless." She leaned into him and laid her forehead in the crook of his neck. "You are still the young gallant to me. I close my eyes and hear your voice and still see that cocky youth." And poor Jamie and Maurice alongside of him, but that went unspoken.


*From To Phylocles, Inviting him to Friendship by Ephelia, aka Mary (Villiers) Stuart, Duchess of Richmond and Lennox, to Phylocles, aka Prince Rupert, Duke of Cumberland. It is likely dated shortly after the Restoration. Full poem HERE

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